Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

At our April meeting we will discuss a book selected by me (Ron Boothe):

Atticus Lish, Preparation for the Next Life. Originally published in hardback by Oneworld Publications, 2014. Tyrant Books Paperback Second Edition (November 3, 2015)

This book won the 2015 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. One of the reasons I chose this book was because I was both stimulated and mesmerized by the composition of its prose. One question I would ask us to consider while reading this book is, just what is the point of view? How do we know when we are reading dialogue, or thoughts from inside the head of one or more of the characters, or descriptions/explanations from an omniscient narrator? Not an easy question and one that should lead to some good discussion.

The basic story is based on three main characters, an undocumented immigrant from China, a veteran of the Iraq war suffering from PTSD, and a “white supremacist wannabe”. I found the plot to be a page-turner that I did not want to put down once I started it, and I read the entire novel in two sittings. At another level the book can be read as an allegory, and I expect our discussion will also include that topic; one even more relevant today than when the novel was first published in 2014.

As a retired professor, I feel compelled to give two trigger warnings:

  1. The book includes some descriptions of brutality that are disturbing and more graphic than in the books we typically read, but I encourage everyone to read the book all the way to the end even if some sections make you uncomfortable. These passages are not overly numerous, none are very long, and, at least in my opinion, none of the graphic descriptions are gratuitous.
  2. This novel is a love story, but one that might just break your heart — It did mine.

One final comment. This is a book that is likely to evoke strong feelings of empathy, something our world could use more of right now.



About Ron Boothe

I am a Professor Emeritus at Emory University, currently living in Tacoma Washington USA.
This entry was posted in 2017 Selections, Preparation for the Next Life. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

  1. vanperdue says:

    In 2010, shame and empathy researcher Dr. Brené Brown gave us the wonderful and culturally necessary The Gifts of Imperfection, exploring the uncomfortable vulnerability and self-acceptance required in order to truly connect with others. In this charming short film, the folks of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, better-known as the RSA, put a twist on their usual live-illustrated gems and take a page out of the TED-Ed book, teaming up with animator Katy Davis to bring to life an excerpt from Brown’s longer talk on the power of vulnerability and the difference between empathy and sympathy, based on her most recent self-helpy-sounding but enormously insightful and rigorously researched book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (public library).

    And that connection often requires mutual vulnerability. Brown writes in Daring Greatly:

    Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.


    Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

  2. Richard Smaby says:

    In preparation for Ron’s book next Thursday I would like to share the following Wikipedia article on Chinglish. I have been wondering if the author really represents the speech of the Chinese speakers accurately when they try to speak English.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s